Derek celebrates four special decades
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Breaking his writing wrist during a football match, Derek Hopkins trained his other hand by filling in the coupons at the back of newspapers including an application to become a Special Constable.
That was back in 1980 and today Derek is the Deputy Chief Officer within the Special Constabulary and continues to keep Essex safe with our Road Crime Team.
The 67-year-old assists regularly carries out roadside stop checks and has helped communities over many decades.
He said: “I’m a police officer 24/7 and I have been for many, many years – so much so that I think people are starting to recognise my face.
“Earlier this year I popped into a fish and chip shop in Witham and saw two men in there that I pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt. They were understanding and supportive.
“I don’t believe in barriers. I might be a lot older than I was when I first started, however, I still feel physically and mentally fit and I’m still making a difference.”
Derek was born in Forest Gate, East London, before moving to Leytonstone and leaving school to work on a farm in Cornwall and then a petrol station forecourt in Chingford.
He always had a passion for cars and wanted to be a traffic officer but was initially told he was too short, so he worked in the parts department for Jaguar and Rover.
Derek married in 1975 and moved to Silver End and worked in the water section with then Essex Fire Brigade.
His role was to make sure fire engines had another water supply – and in this job he helped to start create safer communities.
It was following a Sunday morning football match with a local team in Silver End that he broke his wrist and saw a Special Constable advert in the back of a national newspaper.
“I had someone turn up really quickly and they went through the process with me,” he said.
“Before you know it, I had trained and attested and started my Special journey.
“I’ve been a big advocate for improving the Special Constable experience and since then there have been some really great changes.”
Derek’s memories of being a Special Constable many decades ago included managing the Witham carnival and managing scene guards.
His first ever job was to make sure a well-known comedian was looked after in Hatfield Peverel.
Derek became a DCO in 2017 and thanked many other leaders within the Special Constabulary for their support and enthusiasm including Superintendent Cat Barrie, who heads our specials, and the former head, Chief Superintendent Simon Anslow.
Derek continued: “Special Constables can do anything right now.
“They are volunteering in all areas including our Operational Support Group, Dogs Unit, Marine Unit, Drones Team, Roads Policing Team and within Community and Local Policing Teams. They’ve even helped our detective based departments.
“The opportunities are endless – it’s a fantastic time to join.”
Derek, who is a keen sailor, thanks wife, Julie, who continues to support him in his role.
His youngest son, Ben, was a Special Constable along with his step-daughter, Natalie.
Our Special Constables help to keep Essex safe and make a difference to our communities each and every day – just like Derek does.
Do you want to join them in catching criminals and keeping people safe?
Join our Essex Police family as a Special Constable: www.essex.police.uk/specials #MyOtherLife